Joy

Joy


Author: Gareth Russell Date: Sunday, November 13, 2016 Campus:

On Wednesday morning, I woke up and when I realised what had happened my heart sank. I could not believe it. How could this happen?

I had run out of hair gel and I would have to display a bouffant for the remainder of the day.

In a week like this week, it is easy to feel fearful, unsettled, angry and judgemental. What is happening? How did Trump manage it? If Brexit means Brexit what does Brexit mean?

It is easy to lose a sense of any joy and focus on our sense of fear.

A study of Twitter users found an interesting pattern: humans tend to be happy at breakfast time, not so happy at midday, and then happy again near bedtime. The study, which analyzed

509 million tweets from 2.4 million users in 84 countries, found that moods fluctuate in a

predictable pattern.

On weekdays, positive tweets peak between 6 A.M. and 9 A.M., then decline steadily to a trough between 3 P.M. and 4 P.M. In the late afternoon, positivity begins to rise again, peaking after dinner. On weekends, the pattern is similar but morning happiness shifts later, starting at around 9 A.M., when most people are beginning their day.

If you're a Christian, you know that Christianity is supposed to be about joy. You probably also know that you're supposed to experience joy in spite of circumstances.

The Bible clearly teaches that joy is available and that should make us happy no matter the circumstances.

There's a joy that the deepest trouble can't put out, and if properly nourished and nurtured, can even overwhelm the greatest grief.

If you are here today and you call yourself a Christian, when Jesus prays to His Father in John 17, he prays for you. He says, "I pray that they may have the full measure of my joy within them."

One chapter before, he says to his disciples, "You will rejoice and no one will take away your joy."

That's pretty amazing! He's talking to the twelve disciples, men who are going to be persecuted. They're going to be robbed of everything they own, tortured, and put to death. Yet Jesus promises to give them a joy that will withstand all that.

Nothing—not disease or persecution or alienation or loneliness or torture or even death—will be able to take it away.

I often wrestle with that concept. I have to ask myself, Why do things affect me so much? Why is my joy not relentless? Sometimes I wonder, Do we have that kind of impenetrable joy? I'm afraid not. I don't think we understand the nature of this joy.

Let’s read Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he

also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn

among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

Romans 8 is all about living in a suffering world marked by brokenness. Paul talks about trouble and persecution and nakedness and poverty and how Christians are supposed to live in a world like that.

In these verses, he offers three principles for finding joy in suffering. Paul tells us that if we follow Christ, our bad things turn out for good, our good things cannot be lost, and our best things are yet to come. Those are the reasons for our joy.

Our bad things turn out for good.

Verse 28 says: "For those loving him, God works together all things for good." There are three implications of this first principle.

First, this verse says that all things happen to Christians. That is, the Christian's circumstances are no better than anybody else's. It is extremely important for us to understand this if we're going to experience relentless joy. Terrible things happen to people who love God. In verse 35, Paul says, "What can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, poverty, danger, or sword?" Those are terrible things. Paul is saying all the same things that happen to everybody else will happen to us, even if we love God. It's very important to realise that.

The second implication of this point is that when things work together in your life, it's because of God. Notice Paul does not say, "things work together for good." Things never work together for good on their own. Rather, if anything good happens, it is because God is working it together.

Modern, Western people believe that if things go wrong, we should sue, because things ought to go right. But Christians have to discard that idea completely. Christians have to recognise that if our health remains in tact, it is simply because God is holding it up. If people love us, if

someone is there to hug us or squeeze our hand, if someone loves us in spite of all our flaws

—if someone loves us at all—it's because God is bringing all things together. God is holding it up. Everything that goes well is a miracle of grace.

The third implication of this principle is the most basic: although bad things happen, God works them for good. This verse does not promise that those who love God will have better circumstances.

Nor does this verse say that bad things are actually good things. Rather, it acknowledges that these are bad things, but it promises that they're working for good. That means God will work

them to good effect in your life.

Story of Daniel in Babylon. Daniel 1:1-2 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord

delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the

treasure-house of his god.

Did you notice what it said in verse 2? It was the Lord who delivered the king of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

It looked like the Devil was winning, it looked like the plans of evil were overcoming the plans of God.

But, you see God was fully in control. He was doing something powerful and shaping his people into something they were meant to be which wouldn't have happened in Jerusalem because you could hide your faithlessness there - not in Babylon, either have real faith or die.

The promise is not that if you love God, good things will happen in your life. The promise is not that if you love God, the bad things really aren't bad—they're really good things. The promise is that God will take the bad things, and he'll work them for good in the totality.

Bad things will happen to you. We shouldn't be shocked or surprised when bad things happen. One of the main reasons a lot of Christians are continually overthrown is not simply because bad things happen to them.

At least half of their discouragement and despondency is due to their surprise at the bad things that happen to them. Do you see the distinction? Fifty percent of the reason we get so despondent is we're shocked.

We say this isn't how it's supposed to be. We may say life should be better, but that's not what the promise is. Or we say we love God, therefore, surely we will have more good circumstances. That's not the promise either. Until you understand what the promise is, you're going to be continually shocked and even overthrown.

Our good things can never be lost.

The second principle in this passage is that the good things we have cannot be lost. If you've been a Christian for any period of time, you know that Romans 8:28 is a very famous verse. People use it all the time. It's what some preachers refer to as a "blessing box" verse. A blessing box is a collection of verses you rip out of context and recite without concern for what came before and after the verse. It feels good, so you use it.

For example, people use Romans 8:28 to assure themselves that when bad things happen, then surely good things will happen. You might think, I didn't get into the university I wanted to get into, but that's because there's a better university for me somewhere. Or, I didn't marry the girl or guy I wanted to marry, but that means there's a better one for me somewhere.

That's not the promise.

There's a little word between verses 28 and 29 that indicates the verses go together. The little word is for. "All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose, for those he foreknew he predestined to be conformed into the likeness of his Son."

God does not promise you better life circumstances if you love him. He promises you a better life. University and marriage are circumstances. We're talking about a joy that goes beyond circumstances.

We cannot interpret verse 28 as a joy that is dependent on those things! Here is an important principle: Jesus Christ did not suffer so that you would not suffer. He suffered so that when you suffer, you'll become like him. The gospel does not promise you better life circumstances;

it promises you a better life.

The best things are yet to come.

That brings us to the third point. Why can you be joyful no matter what? Your bad things turn out for good, your good things can never be lost, and the best is yet to come. If you understand what is to come, you can handle anything here.

What amazes me is that even Ivan Karamazov, the atheist character in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, understood how knowing what is to come helps a person endure present circumstances.

He said: I believe that suffering will be healed and made up for, that in the world's finality, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice

for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that's been shed, that it will make it not just possible to forgive, but to justify all that's happened.

I don't want you to think that this talk about glory and about heaven trivialises suffering. In fact, Ivan Karamazov said that this hope is the only worldview that takes our brokenness

seriously. Our souls are so great and our suffering is so deep that nothing but this promise

can overwhelm it. Thinking about heaven does not trivialise human brokenness. It's the only thing that takes it seriously. What else could possibly deal with the hurts of our hearts? Your soul is too great for anything but this.

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